The Corps motto Arte et Marte, by skill and by fighting, refers to the demand for REME personnel to deliver engineering effect under fire and in the heat of battle. But it can also reflect a mindset and a mantra for REME personnel through life – in service and post service. Few reflect this more clearly than Simon Brown.
Simon Brown joined the Army in May 1997 at the age of 18, going through basic training at Pirbright Depot before moving to Bordon to train as an ‘A Mech’ Vehicle Mechanic. After completing his initial trade training Simon served the Corps in Munster, Fallingbostel, Catterick and operationally in Kosovo and 2 tours of Iraq.
In 2006 Simon was a Corporal serving with 2 Lancs LAD deployed on Op TELIC 9 in Iraq as a Vehicle Commander. He was based in Basra. On one fateful day, Simon was tasked to go from his Basra base to to recover a stranded Bulldog with personnel on board in his Warrior 513. Under occasional hostile fire, Simon and his team connected his Warrior up to the Bulldog, and was about to set off back to base when dust was kicked up into the air as other vehicles in the patrol left the location. Simon’s driver shouted that he couldn’t see through the dust. Simon had tried using the sighting system and other methods to assist but they were no use, and so he raised his head out of the Cupola to try and provide guidance so his Warrior could avoid any hazards on route. It was then that Simon was hit by a sniper’s round through his left cheek.
Simon was evacuated back to Basra and subsequently to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham and spent the next 17 days in an induced coma. This incident took the sight in his left eye and constrained vision in his right eye to just 20%. Naturally yet sadly, this permanent injury led to his discharge from the Army in 2010. Returning home to Morley near Leeds, Simon had to try and rebuild his life and adapt to his new circumstances.
Simon bought his grandparents house to be near his family; it also helped that he was familiar with the town and area which meant he was better able to navigate around his surroundings. In civvies he initially found work with a youth offending team an important and fulfilling role but in 2012 an even better opportunity arose for him that reconnected him with his military family. He was appointed to role with Blind Veterans UK, a charity which offers a bespoke service, providing rehabilitation, training, practical advice and emotional support for life. This new role gave Simon a new purpose in life and the satisfaction of helping other veterans in need.
In his local community, Simon also became active in the Royal British Legion, becoming RBL Branch Chairman, supporting BLESMA, becoming patron of the Defence Medical Welfare Service and committing significant time to the GP/Veteran healthcare programme. He also helped set up the Leeds Rhinos physical disability rugby league team. He now coaches this team and is a rugby league community coach.
You would think that would keep him busy enough, but in 2022 he was asked by members of Morley Town Council if he would be interested in filling a vacancy on the council. Town Councils fulfil a useful role in supporting their communities and Morley has a well-attended Remembrance parade and other Civic events that offered Simon the opportunity to do even more for fellow veterans. Through his membership of the Morley Town Council, Simon joined the community support committee, which considers applications from local community groups for financial assistance; really valuable and worthwhile work that improved the lives of many in the community.
May 2023 was an election year, where all councillors have to go before the public. Of the 7 candidates, Simon polled the second highest number showing his high public standing. As the Town Council starts it 4 year-term they elected a Civic Mayor & Deputy, and Simon was proud to have been nominated and elected as Deputy Town Mayor for this year. The role is an ambassadorial one, and Simon is already attending events in Morley and across the Yorkshire region to represent his home town.
Having initially enlisted as a full-time career soldier, Simon like many others who suffered permanent injury has had to adapt and come to terms with his life-changing circumstances. Incredibly, he has learnt to live with his disability and continued to thrive in live and in service to his community. “You have to get up not give up – by skill and by fighting“ says ; the Corps motto is something that still motivates him. No matter what life throws at us we must learn the skillsto deal with it and always fight to overcome adversity.
Scribe: Martyn Bolt, Deputy Town Clerk, Morley Town Council